Archbishop of Westminster

Lourdes Pilgrimage 2013: Closing Mass

26 July 2013

All too soon we are here, taking this step towards the formal ending of our pilgrimage together. Later this afternoon we will say our final public prayers as we place our candle to burn before the statue of Our Lady. Then there is still time for our private relaxation and reflection.

But at this moment we can reflect and draw together some of the aspects of our pilgrim journey.

At our opening Mass, there was a call to Remember all those who had asked for our prayers, and all those in need; we were to Speak to our Mother, telling her everything, chatting about our anxieties and hopes; we were to Listen to the voice of the Lord and his plans for us.

Then we experienced the joy of being reconciled to Him through the Sacrament of Penance. There we learned to accept ourselves as we are because we are accepted by the Lord as we are.

Recall too the anointing of our sick, with that great cry of faith that the cross which each of us is called to carry in our lives has been lovingly shaped for us by The Lord himself. In carrying our cross we are 'yoked to Christ.'

The celebration of the family, which we so enjoyed, helped us to understand what it is to 'see all things with the eyes of faith' and how important it is to use our strength always with exquisite courtesy.

Mass in the Parish Church was a special moment in which our focus was on the richness of our faith, which finds expression not only in the words of the finest and greatest minds but also in the simplest of souls: one faith giving us such strength in unity.

And then there are the themes of Lourdes itself: the Cross, the Rock, the Water and the Light!

Now for a moment let us look outward to the World Youth Day event taking place at this moment in Rio. There they are cold and wet!!

We know that one of the great concerns of Pope Francis, of which he is speaking, is that of young people. He says that young people there (two million of them) will be finding in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations, finding Him together, in common, and in Him 'satisfying their hunger for a pure truth and an authentic love.'

Young people, he tells us, have the desire to create a world of brothers and sisters, beyond what history shows us to be humanly possible.

Young people, he says, are ' the apple of our eye', the windows through which the future enters the world.

He calls on societies to make sure that young people are not isolated but are an important part of the social fabric, with a strong sense of belonging. We need to give them space, he says, to create for them material and spiritual conditions for their development, solid foundations on which to build their lives.

I think we have seen much of this take place here in Lourdes on this pilgrimage.

Our pilgrimage is indeed a glimpse of our entire journey through life. Here we have seen the great work and the generosity of our young people.

So, I take this moment to salute you, to encourage you, to thank you for all your great work and the part you have played in this pilgrimage. Well done!

I also thank all the teachers - over 30 of you - who have come here with these youngsters. You play such an important part in giving them a sure foundation on which to build their lives. Thank you!

Yet Pope Francis had more to say. He said "The elderly too are our future!" They offer to us the wisdom of life, the wisdom of history, of our homeland and of our family, often giving us all we need for our future.

And then there is this important thought: In the elderly we see more clearly the promise of heaven. For you, the time is approaching for you to make that great journey into God's presence, to enter into His light.

I hope that this journey to Lourdes has had some of the elements of a rehearsal, a practice run, for that great moment. And you know that we all have to make that last journey and we make it with each other's encouragement and prayers.

So I express our great thanks to our sick and elderly, both those here and those at home. A number of times, people have spoken to me of their grandma or granddad back at home, treasuring them with love. Today is the Feast of St Joachim and St Anne, the parents of Mary and therefore the ones Jesus might have called grandma and granddad.  I thank you all for your dignity, your patience, your gratitude and your elegance of spirit. You too are our treasure, the apple of our eye!

But what of us, here in between! We are still young at heart but beginning to creak in our bones and joints. We hope to receive the best from both of you: the best joy and fun from the young and the best serenity and freedom from the elderly.

Together, in this pilgrimage, we have lived and expressed ourselves as a family, the family of the Church, living together across the generations with love and mutual support. And this experience of family is a really good sign, or sacrament, of the true family of all humanity.

This, I hope, is the seed that has been planted within us, the seed of true and lasting family life, held together under the mantle of Mary, the mother of us all.

May this seed grow within us. May our lives not be the rocky ground of the parable, but its fertile soil so that we will produce harvests a hundred fold, harvest of prayer, of service, of love between the generations, of stability and faithfulness to each other, a harvest of sound witness, good example, in our society today.

With the Apostles Peter and John, we too say: 'We cannot stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard' here, in Lourdes, in this Pilgrimage of 2013. Amen.

+Vincent Nichols

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